|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: George Ochoa|
|Record Label: M24 Music Group||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Worldview|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
There’s no question we’re fans of Worldview and its M24 Music Group spring of 2015 full-length debut The Chosen Few. After all, the group is not without its share of star-studded appeal, as the likes of guitarist George Ochoa and vocalist Rey Parra grace its line-up. Ochao gained initial renown from his work in Recon and its acclaimed 1990 US power metal release Behind Enemy Lines. Later leaving Recon for the melodic speed metal and thrash of Deliverance, Ochoa helped turn Weapons Of Our Warfare (also 1990) into what many consider one of the best Christian metal albums of all time. Parra got his start in the ‘Ryche influenced power/progressive metal of Sacred Warrior, lending his high-end and operatic vocal abilities to the groups highly regarded albums Rebellion (1988), Master’s Command (1989), Wicked Generation (1990) and Obsessions (1991). A twenty-year musical hiatus ensued for the two after Sacred Warrior disbanded in the early nineties and Ochoa departed Deliverance in the aftermath of its 1991 release What A Joke.
Inevitably, fate brought Ochoa and Parra together following the tragic 2009 passing of mutual friend and Sacred Warrior keyboardist Rick Macias. In order to honor their friend - and since Macias always encourage a musical collaboration between the two - Ochoa and Parra formed Worldview in 2013. With drummer John Gonzales (Recon, Deliverance), bassist Todd Libby and keyboardist Ronson Webster rounding out its line up, Worldview recorded a pair of songs in “The Last Cry” and “Two Wonders” that that helped turn The Chosen Few into one of the more anticipated releases of 2015. Helping garner further interest for the album - and staying true to that previously noted ‘all-star’ theme - Worldview brought in guitarists Oz Fox (Stryper) and Larry Farkas (Vengeance Rising & Die Happy) and vocalists Les Carlson (Bloodgood) and Jimmy P. Brown II (Deliverance, Jupiter VI) for guest appearances.
When factoring the respective (and very similar) musical backgrounds to Ochoa and Parra, the expectation is for Worldview to reflect a ubiquitous power metal slant. However, such is not the case in that Worldview is NOT Recon meets Sacred Warrior, keeping in mind the power metal designation applies (to a certain extent) but that there is also so much more to the group musically. Consider, for instance, how what I said in my review of the Sweet & Lynch debut Only To Rise applies in this regard: “(Sweet & Lynch) is not Stryper meets Dokken but rather Michael Sweet meets George Lynch.” In similar fashion, the best way to describe Worldview is George Ochoa meets Rey Parra with the group a direct reflection of the unique qualities that the two bring to the table.
It starts with how Worldview interweaves a richly textured foundation of melodic metal with deliberate forays into the power and progressive side of things. Those melodic metal aspects do not come in the form of the eighties hair metal variety but rather a more up to date European form from how the group makes generous use of keyboards while mixing in light symphonic and classical touches. Of course, when factoring Ochoa’s and Parra’s pedigree, a power metal influence cannot help but come into play, but it is understated in that Worldview sidesteps much of the epic flavorings meet sing along medieval qualities and galloping riffs to the point of speed metal inherit to the genre. Rather, the group approaches things from a more aesthetic standpoint in emphasizing mature melodies while playing up the decided guitars, darker tinctures and technical leanings that go hand in hand.
My inclination as a result is to label Worldview ‘melodic metal’, but those insisting on a ‘melodic power metal’ moniker are neither inaccurate or at fault. Hence, I do not think I am out of line to place Worldview within a similar category as Kamelot, Masterplan, Allen/Lande, Harmony, Black Fate, Magnitude 9, Rob Rock’s solo material and others attempting to meld melodic metal and power metal into a uniform package. No, I am not inviting direct comparison but if you like the aforementioned then I can see Worldview appealing to your tastes.
A good indicator of that melodic metal with power metal undertones Worldview sound reveals itself on opener “Mortality”, a stylishly intricate piece in which guitars plunge in and out of the mix for the august verses only to take a firmer stance upon procuring nothing less an elevated chorus. In between Middle Eastern flavored guitars occasionally make their presence felt. Immediate impression is the abundance to Parra’s voice, who shines with his trademark silky smooth and crystalline abilities. No, he might not reach for the upper end of the stratosphere as in his prime Sacred Warrior days but still exhibits the same heartfelt expression and persuasive control over his delivery. Parra leaves little doubt accordingly that he worked extremely hard to get himself into top vocal condition with the results speaking for themselves.
A heavier direction is taken on “The Last Cry” and “Walk Through Fire”, a pair of heavy set crunchers in which the groups inherit power metal tendencies rise to the forefront. Former proves plodding but distinguished, interlacing touches of acoustic guitars with staunchly done guitars to creating a setting on the imposing side of things. Polished vocal melodies help sustain the refined chorus. Latter takes the more keyed up stance as an arresting guitar penchant aligns with hints of piano and accenting keyboards. The thickset drum sound (courtesy of John Gonzales) helps take the heaviness to the next level.
One of my favorite The Chosen Few pieces is its most diverse, “Prisoner Of Pain”. Yes, this one maintains the focused heaviness but in a more seventies influenced hard rock package as keyboards and organ play decisive roles (a more muscular version of Sweden’s Modest Attraction is the gist). Still, Worldview lends its unique personality from aligning darker and moody aspects with an abiding momentum and fantastic blues based guitar solo. Disparate pieces such as these make me hesitate to use the power metal label when describing Worldview in that (once more) there is much more to the group musically.
Speaking of swarthy, “Illusions Of Love” also takes an ominous stance with its thickset low end (consider Todd Libby’s rumbling bass line) and engaging refrain propelled by aggressive backing vocals to almost allow a Gothic touch. The unconventional keyboards (in a positive sense) further uphold the haunting environs. “The Mirror” sustains the darker undercurrents, chilling and perilous with its stark symphonic elements while giving rise to a slogging disposition hinting of the doom-like. When factoring the all out emotion to Parra’s delivery, Master’s Command era Sacred Warrior comes to mind. Lead guitar this time takes a shred-based stance.
That Worldview diversity again comes into play on “Back In Time”, a refined melodic hard rocker with an almost eighties commercial edge. Interestingly, the song starts to classic instrumentation prior to setting forth in upbeat fashion as mirthfully done guitars merge with an animated chorus of a radio friendly variety. Guitar harmonies carry the inspired instrumental moments. Further helping the song stand out is Ochoa’s guitar wizardry, who performs masterfully throughout the album with his varied playing (heavier to aggressive to lighter to melodic) and prominent soloing abilities. Repeat listen reveals him to have expanded upon his repertoire by having grown that much further beyond his power metal and thrash beginnings.
The Chosen Few lightens further for “Why”. Laid back, airy and atmospheric, the song evenly drifts its composed length as a pronounced bass line and the groups ever present guitar harmonies hold sway. Refrain is on the reserved side of things. Also relaxed in form, “Two Wonders” highlights a symphonic touch with its flowing ethereal proclivities and buoyant keyboards. Piano adds to the pronounced alluring feel. Lone complaint is the rap narration delivery of Romans 5: 7-8, which (as I am sure you can imagine) sounds out of place in light of the musical environs at hand. Perhaps it might have worked better if the group had employed spoken word narration or gone the instrumental passage route instead.
Albums mellowest is its title track, a stunning seven minute progressive ballad that starts gentle and temperate prior to gradually building momentum until guitars step forward and blend with the engaging scene. Instrumental moments range from Spanish guitar driven to bluesy soloing. Shadow Gallery, the masters of lengthy ballads, could not have done it better. Also coming to mind in this capacity is extended Bloodgood ballads “Top Of The Mountain” and “Changing Me” (off Out Of The Darkness form 1989). The quality to “The Chosen Few” is such I wish Worldview had taken further opportunity to explore the progressive facet to its songwriting abilities.
Production shines with its mirror like and transparent qualities in allowing a near perfect balance of refinement and the unmistakable guitar driven. A measure of credit goes to mixing and mastering technician Bill Metoyer, who has worked with Fates Warning, Slayer, Deliverance and W.A.S.P.
Lyrically, Worldview makes a strong statement in regards to its faith. Of the three tracks in which lyrics are available (I wrote the review off pre-release promo music files), “Two Wonders” upholds this:
There lies, beneath its shadow
But on the farther side
The darkness of an awful grave
That gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross
Two arms outstretched to save
Like a watchman set to guard the way
From that eternal grave
Two wonders I confess
The wonder of redeeming love
And my unworthiness
Yet You still died for me
As does “Last Cry”:
Wondering where You are
You seem so far away
In these final moments
Life inside me begins to slip away
My God why'd You forsake me
Not my will but let Your will be done
It is finished, It is done
My last cry
It is finished, it is done
It is finished
“Mortality” proves aptly entitled:
Out of dust they came
Unto the dust they shall return
Leaders rise and fall
History revealed their legacy
They celebrate with their glass held high
When judgment comes
They will soon know why
All earthly kingdoms end
How the might have fallen
Why is it that men can’t face their mortality?
Despite the numerous delays since its announcing in late 2013, The Chosen Few proves well worth the time and wait. Albums strength resides around the talented Ochoa and Parra partnership along with the wide array of musical styles, albeit I am willing to accept the ‘melodic power metal’ moniker with a certain amount of reservation. Regardless, fans of all types of melodic and power metal will take great pleasure in the detailed songwriting and first-rate band performance. Overall, I see The Chosen Few potentially challenging for album of the year.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Mortality” (5:37), “Illusions Of Love” (4:19), “Back In Time” (5:02), “The Mirror” (4:56), “Why?” (3:59), “Prisoner Of Pain” (5:33), “Two Wonders: (5:59), “Walk Through Fire” (3:45), “The Chosen Few” (6:59), “The Last Cry” (5:19)
Rey Parra - Lead Vocals
George Rene Ochoa - Guitars, Keyboards & Background Vocals
Todd Libby - Bass guitar & Keyboards
Johnny Gonzales - Drums & Percussion
Les Carlson - Vocals
Jimmy P. Brown II - Vocals
Oz Fox - Guitars
Larry Farkas - Guitars